Just Say No

This Is Your Brain on Video Bedlam

Before Wilma, Rahman says, the IFSF had approached the Broward County School Board about helping the effort. "Now, you know, the School Board is in problems of its own, if you know what I mean," he says. These days, everyone does. But the 'Pipe wonders: When the drone of gas generators allows a moment to reflect, aren't some problems really more pressing than others? The organization can be reached at 954-741-8130 or through its website, www.ifsf.net.

Put a Roof on It

If you're among the legion of homeowners whose tile roof took a thrashing from Wilma, this might be a good time to take up ceramics as a hobby. It's probably the only way to ensure getting replacement tile before, say, the 2006 elections.

The small companies that replace leaky rooftops had been complaining about the shortage of cement tiles well before the latest storm. "They've decided that reroofers can go screw themselves," gripes one local roofer, who didn't want to be identified lest he not get any tile for the next decade. "If you're a single homeowner doing a roof, they don't care about you."

Barry Birenbaum, a sales rep with Bradco Supply, which distributes tiles and other building supplies, gets dozens of calls each day from frustrated homeowners and roofers. But Bradco has to wait like everyone else. "The major concrete manufacturers are committed to the contracts they have with the large new-home builders," he says. "The new-home construction is what's benefiting from this. But those houses are unoccupied. What about the small homes that are leaking that need to be reroofed?"

So have the major manufacturers shifted gears to get tiles to the folks who need 'em? The 'Pipe called Frank Toups, sales manager of Hanson Roof Tile in Deerfield Beach, who didn't care to talk about the subject. He assured this slowly rusting tube that Hanson was busily at work composing a news release and would issue it within 24 hours. As the days slipped by, the statement was as AWOL as the company's tiles. Toups wouldn't return phone calls, just as no one would call back from MonierLifetile, another major manufacturer. No way of checking their profits in the midst of want. They're privately held.

Birenbaum suggests that the manufacturers should alternate production each month between new construction and reroofing. "But you know what? The big builders have too much pull," he laments. "They're not going to let that happen."

So fire up that kiln. Or buy a new house.

Lines That Pay

As South Florida motorists found their patience strained on gas lines and fistfights were breaking out pumpside, the oil industry experienced one of the most profitable runs in a long history of wealth and monopoly. Two weeks ago, Exxon Mobile Corp. posted the largest quarterly profit for a U.S. company ever. It was also the first U.S. company to record more than $100 billion in quarterly sales. Happy day!

It wasn't alone. Analysts say that the gas pinch caused by this unusually active hurricane season has driven up prices across the industry. Of the 132 oil and oil-refining companies listed on a key stock index, only nine lost stock value between Hurricane Wilma's South Florida arrival and Friday, October 28.

Let's hear it for the vast sucking sound of our money draining into Big Oil's coffers.

— As told to Edmund Newton

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